The Divine Comedy of Dante by H. W. Longfellow
Part 6 out of 11
Hence if, discriminating, I judge well,
The evil that one loves is of one's neighbour,
And this is born in three modes in your clay.
There are, who, by abasement of their neighbour,
Hope to excel, and therefore only long
That from his greatness he may be cast down;
There are, who power, grace, honour, and renown
Fear they may lose because another rises,
Thence are so sad that the reverse they love;
And there are those whom injury seems to chafe,
So that it makes them greedy for revenge,
And such must needs shape out another's harm.
This threefold love is wept for down below;
Now of the other will I have thee hear,
That runneth after good with measure faulty.
Each one confusedly a good conceives
Wherein the mind may rest, and longeth for it;
Therefore to overtake it each one strives.
If languid love to look on this attract you,
Or in attaining unto it, this cornice,
After just penitence, torments you for it.
There's other good that does not make man happy;
'Tis not felicity, 'tis not the good
Essence, of every good the fruit and root.
The love that yields itself too much to this
Above us is lamented in three circles;
But how tripartite it may be described,
I say not, that thou seek it for thyself."
Purgatorio: Canto XVIII
An end had put unto his reasoning
The lofty Teacher, and attent was looking
Into my face, if I appeared content;
And I, whom a new thirst still goaded on,
Without was mute, and said within: "Perchance
The too much questioning I make annoys him."
But that true Father, who had comprehended
The timid wish, that opened not itself,
By speaking gave me hardihood to speak.
Whence I: "My sight is, Master, vivified
So in thy light, that clearly I discern
Whate'er thy speech importeth or describes.
Therefore I thee entreat, sweet Father dear,
To teach me love, to which thou dost refer
Every good action and its contrary."
"Direct," he said, "towards me the keen eyes
Of intellect, and clear will be to thee
The error of the blind, who would be leaders.
The soul, which is created apt to love,
Is mobile unto everything that pleases,
Soon as by pleasure she is waked to action.
Your apprehension from some real thing
An image draws, and in yourselves displays it
So that it makes the soul turn unto it.
And if, when turned, towards it she incline,
Love is that inclination; it is nature,
Which is by pleasure bound in you anew
Then even as the fire doth upward move
By its own form, which to ascend is born,
Where longest in its matter it endures,
So comes the captive soul into desire,
Which is a motion spiritual, and ne'er rests
Until she doth enjoy the thing beloved.
Now may apparent be to thee how hidden
The truth is from those people, who aver
All love is in itself a laudable thing;
Because its matter may perchance appear
Aye to be good; but yet not each impression
Is good, albeit good may be the wax."
"Thy words, and my sequacious intellect,"
I answered him, "have love revealed to me;
But that has made me more impregned with doubt;
For if love from without be offered us,
And with another foot the soul go not,
If right or wrong she go, 'tis not her merit."
And he to me: "What reason seeth here,
Myself can tell thee; beyond that await
For Beatrice, since 'tis a work of faith.
Every substantial form, that segregate
From matter is, and with it is united,
Specific power has in itself collected,
Which without act is not perceptible,
Nor shows itself except by its effect,
As life does in a plant by the green leaves.
But still, whence cometh the intelligence
Of the first notions, man is ignorant,
And the affection for the first allurements,
Which are in you as instinct in the bee
To make its honey; and this first desire
Merit of praise or blame containeth not.
Now, that to this all others may be gathered,
Innate within you is the power that counsels,
And it should keep the threshold of assent.
This is the principle, from which is taken
Occasion of desert in you, according
As good and guilty loves it takes and winnows.
Those who, in reasoning, to the bottom went,
Were of this innate liberty aware,
Therefore bequeathed they Ethics to the world.
Supposing, then, that from necessity
Springs every love that is within you kindled,
Within yourselves the power is to restrain it.
The noble virtue Beatrice understands
By the free will; and therefore see that thou
Bear it in mind, if she should speak of it."
The moon, belated almost unto midnight,
Now made the stars appear to us more rare,
Formed like a bucket, that is all ablaze,
And counter to the heavens ran through those paths
Which the sun sets aflame, when he of Rome
Sees it 'twixt Sardes and Corsicans go down;
And that patrician shade, for whom is named
Pietola more than any Mantuan town,
Had laid aside the burden of my lading;
Whence I, who reason manifest and plain
In answer to my questions had received,
Stood like a man in drowsy reverie.
But taken from me was this drowsiness
Suddenly by a people, that behind
Our backs already had come round to us.
And as, of old, Ismenus and Asopus
Beside them saw at night the rush and throng,
If but the Thebans were in need of Bacchus,
So they along that circle curve their step,
From what I saw of those approaching us,
Who by good-will and righteous love are ridden.
Full soon they were upon us, because running
Moved onward all that mighty multitude,
And two in the advance cried out, lamenting,
"Mary in haste unto the mountain ran,
And Caesar, that he might subdue Ilerda,
Thrust at Marseilles, and then ran into Spain."
"Quick! quick! so that the time may not be lost
By little love!" forthwith the others cried,
"For ardour in well-doing freshens grace!"
"O folk, in whom an eager fervour now
Supplies perhaps delay and negligence,
Put by you in well-doing, through lukewarmness,
This one who lives, and truly I lie not,
Would fain go up, if but the sun relight us;
So tell us where the passage nearest is."
These were the words of him who was my Guide;
And some one of those spirits said: "Come on
Behind us, and the opening shalt thou find;
So full of longing are we to move onward,
That stay we cannot; therefore pardon us,
If thou for churlishness our justice take.
I was San Zeno's Abbot at Verona,
Under the empire of good Barbarossa,
Of whom still sorrowing Milan holds discourse;
And he has one foot in the grave already,
Who shall erelong lament that monastery,
And sorry be of having there had power,
Because his son, in his whole body sick,
And worse in mind, and who was evil-born,
He put into the place of its true pastor."
If more he said, or silent was, I know not,
He had already passed so far beyond us;
But this I heard, and to retain it pleased me.
And he who was in every need my succour
Said: "Turn thee hitherward; see two of them
Come fastening upon slothfulness their teeth."
In rear of all they shouted: "Sooner were
The people dead to whom the sea was opened,
Than their inheritors the Jordan saw;
And those who the fatigue did not endure
Unto the issue, with Anchises' son,
Themselves to life withouten glory offered."
Then when from us so separated were
Those shades, that they no longer could be seen,
Within me a new thought did entrance find,
Whence others many and diverse were born;
And so I lapsed from one into another,
That in a reverie mine eyes I closed,
And meditation into dream transmuted.
Purgatorio: Canto XIX
It was the hour when the diurnal heat
No more can warm the coldness of the moon,
Vanquished by earth, or peradventure Saturn,
When geomancers their Fortuna Major
See in the orient before the dawn
Rise by a path that long remains not dim,
There came to me in dreams a stammering woman,
Squint in her eyes, and in her feet distorted,
With hands dissevered and of sallow hue.
I looked at her; and as the sun restores
The frigid members which the night benumbs,
Even thus my gaze did render voluble
Her tongue, and made her all erect thereafter
In little while, and the lost countenance
As love desires it so in her did colour.
When in this wise she had her speech unloosed,
She 'gan to sing so, that with difficulty
Could I have turned my thoughts away from her.
"I am," she sang, "I am the Siren sweet
Who mariners amid the main unman,
So full am I of pleasantness to hear.
I drew Ulysses from his wandering way
Unto my song, and he who dwells with me
Seldom departs so wholly I content him."
Her mouth was not yet closed again, before
Appeared a Lady saintly and alert
Close at my side to put her to confusion.
"Virgilius, O Virgilius! who is this?"
Sternly she said; and he was drawing near
With eyes still fixed upon that modest one.
She seized the other and in front laid open,
Rending her garments, and her belly showed me;
This waked me with the stench that issued from it.
I turned mine eyes, and good Virgilius said:
"At least thrice have I called thee; rise and come;
Find we the opening by which thou mayst enter."
I rose; and full already of high day
Were all the circles of the Sacred Mountain,
And with the new sun at our back we went.
Following behind him, I my forehead bore
Like unto one who has it laden with thought,
Who makes himself the half arch of a bridge,
When I heard say, "Come, here the passage is,"
Spoken in a manner gentle and benign,
Such as we hear not in this mortal region.
With open wings, which of a swan appeared,
Upward he turned us who thus spake to us,
Between the two walls of the solid granite.
He moved his pinions afterwards and fanned us,
Affirming those 'qui lugent' to be blessed,
For they shall have their souls with comfort filled.
"What aileth thee, that aye to earth thou gazest?"
To me my Guide began to say, we both
Somewhat beyond the Angel having mounted.
And I: "With such misgiving makes me go
A vision new, which bends me to itself,
So that I cannot from the thought withdraw me."
"Didst thou behold," he said, "that old enchantress,
Who sole above us henceforth is lamented?
Didst thou behold how man is freed from her?
Suffice it thee, and smite earth with thy heels,
Thine eyes lift upward to the lure, that whirls
The Eternal King with revolutions vast."
Even as the hawk, that first his feet surveys,
Then turns him to the call and stretches forward,
Through the desire of food that draws him thither,
Such I became, and such, as far as cleaves
The rock to give a way to him who mounts,
Went on to where the circling doth begin.
On the fifth circle when I had come forth,
People I saw upon it who were weeping,
Stretched prone upon the ground, all downward turned.
"Adhaesit pavimento anima mea,"
I heard them say with sighings so profound,
That hardly could the words be understood.
"O ye elect of God, whose sufferings
Justice and Hope both render less severe,
Direct ye us towards the high ascents."
"If ye are come secure from this prostration,
And wish to find the way most speedily,
Let your right hands be evermore outside."
Thus did the Poet ask, and thus was answered
By them somewhat in front of us; whence I
In what was spoken divined the rest concealed,
And unto my Lord's eyes mine eyes I turned;
Whence he assented with a cheerful sign
To what the sight of my desire implored.
When of myself I could dispose at will,
Above that creature did I draw myself,
Whose words before had caused me to take note,
Saying: "O Spirit, in whom weeping ripens
That without which to God we cannot turn,
Suspend awhile for me thy greater care.
Who wast thou, and why are your backs turned upwards,
Tell me, and if thou wouldst that I procure thee
Anything there whence living I departed."
And he to me: "Wherefore our backs the heaven
Turns to itself, know shalt thou; but beforehand
'Scias quod ego fui successor Petri.'
Between Siestri and Chiaveri descends
A river beautiful, and of its name
The title of my blood its summit makes.
A month and little more essayed I how
Weighs the great cloak on him from mire who keeps it,
For all the other burdens seem a feather.
Tardy, ah woe is me! was my conversion;
But when the Roman Shepherd I was made,
Then I discovered life to be a lie.
I saw that there the heart was not at rest,
Nor farther in that life could one ascend;
Whereby the love of this was kindled in me.
Until that time a wretched soul and parted
From God was I, and wholly avaricious;
Now, as thou seest, I here am punished for it.
What avarice does is here made manifest
In the purgation of these souls converted,
And no more bitter pain the Mountain has.
Even as our eye did not uplift itself
Aloft, being fastened upon earthly things,
So justice here has merged it in the earth.
As avarice had extinguished our affection
For every good, whereby was action lost,
So justice here doth hold us in restraint,
Bound and imprisoned by the feet and hands;
And so long as it pleases the just Lord
Shall we remain immovable and prostrate."
I on my knees had fallen, and wished to speak;
But even as I began, and he was 'ware,
Only by listening, of my reverence,
"What cause," he said, "has downward bent thee thus?"
And I to him: "For your own dignity,
Standing, my conscience stung me with remorse."
"Straighten thy legs, and upward raise thee, brother,"
He answered: "Err not, fellow-servant am I
With thee and with the others to one power.
If e'er that holy, evangelic sound,
Which sayeth 'neque nubent,' thou hast heard,
Well canst thou see why in this wise I speak.
Now go; no longer will I have thee linger,
Because thy stay doth incommode my weeping,
With which I ripen that which thou hast said.
On earth I have a grandchild named Alagia,
Good in herself, unless indeed our house
Malevolent may make her by example,
And she alone remains to me on earth."
Purgatorio: Canto XX
Ill strives the will against a better will;
Therefore, to pleasure him, against my pleasure
I drew the sponge not saturate from the water.
Onward I moved, and onward moved my Leader,
Through vacant places, skirting still the rock,
As on a wall close to the battlements;
For they that through their eyes pour drop by drop
The malady which all the world pervades,
On the other side too near the verge approach.
Accursed mayst thou be, thou old she-wolf,
That more than all the other beasts hast prey,
Because of hunger infinitely hollow!
O heaven, in whose gyrations some appear
To think conditions here below are changed,
When will he come through whom she shall depart?
Onward we went with footsteps slow and scarce,
And I attentive to the shades I heard
Piteously weeping and bemoaning them;
And I by peradventure heard "Sweet Mary!"
Uttered in front of us amid the weeping
Even as a woman does who is in child-birth;
And in continuance: "How poor thou wast
Is manifested by that hostelry
Where thou didst lay thy sacred burden down."
Thereafterward I heard: "O good Fabricius,
Virtue with poverty didst thou prefer
To the possession of great wealth with vice."
So pleasurable were these words to me
That I drew farther onward to have knowledge
Touching that spirit whence they seemed to come.
He furthermore was speaking of the largess
Which Nicholas unto the maidens gave,
In order to conduct their youth to honour.
"O soul that dost so excellently speak,
Tell me who wast thou," said I, "and why only
Thou dost renew these praises well deserved?
Not without recompense shall be thy word,
If I return to finish the short journey
Of that life which is flying to its end."
And he: "I'll tell thee, not for any comfort
I may expect from earth, but that so much
Grace shines in thee or ever thou art dead.
I was the root of that malignant plant
Which overshadows all the Christian world,
So that good fruit is seldom gathered from it;
But if Douay and Ghent, and Lille and Bruges
Had Power, soon vengeance would be taken on it;
And this I pray of Him who judges all.
Hugh Capet was I called upon the earth;
From me were born the Louises and Philips,
By whom in later days has France been governed.
I was the son of a Parisian butcher,
What time the ancient kings had perished all,
Excepting one, contrite in cloth of gray.
I found me grasping in my hands the rein
Of the realm's government, and so great power
Of new acquest, and so with friends abounding,
That to the widowed diadem promoted
The head of mine own offspring was, from whom
The consecrated bones of these began.
So long as the great dowry of Provence
Out of my blood took not the sense of shame,
'Twas little worth, but still it did no harm.
Then it began with falsehood and with force
Its rapine; and thereafter, for amends,
Took Ponthieu, Normandy, and Gascony.
Charles came to Italy, and for amends
A victim made of Conradin, and then
Thrust Thomas back to heaven, for amends.
A time I see, not very distant now,
Which draweth forth another Charles from France,
The better to make known both him and his.
Unarmed he goes, and only with the lance
That Judas jousted with; and that he thrusts
So that he makes the paunch of Florence burst.
He thence not land, but sin and infamy,
Shall gain, so much more grievous to himself
As the more light such damage he accounts.
The other, now gone forth, ta'en in his ship,
See I his daughter sell, and chaffer for her
As corsairs do with other female slaves.
What more, O Avarice, canst thou do to us,
Since thou my blood so to thyself hast drawn,
It careth not for its own proper flesh?
That less may seem the future ill and past,
I see the flower-de-luce Alagna enter,
And Christ in his own Vicar captive made.
I see him yet another time derided;
I see renewed the vinegar and gall,
And between living thieves I see him slain.
I see the modern Pilate so relentless,
This does not sate him, but without decretal
He to the temple bears his sordid sails!
When, O my Lord! shall I be joyful made
By looking on the vengeance which, concealed,
Makes sweet thine anger in thy secrecy?
What I was saying of that only bride
Of the Holy Ghost, and which occasioned thee
To turn towards me for some commentary,
So long has been ordained to all our prayers
As the day lasts; but when the night comes on,
Contrary sound we take instead thereof.
At that time we repeat Pygmalion,
Of whom a traitor, thief, and parricide
Made his insatiable desire of gold;
And the misery of avaricious Midas,
That followed his inordinate demand,
At which forevermore one needs but laugh.
The foolish Achan each one then records,
And how he stole the spoils; so that the wrath
Of Joshua still appears to sting him here.
Then we accuse Sapphira with her husband,
We laud the hoof-beats Heliodorus had,
And the whole mount in infamy encircles
Polymnestor who murdered Polydorus.
Here finally is cried: 'O Crassus, tell us,
For thou dost know, what is the taste of gold?'
Sometimes we speak, one loud, another low,
According to desire of speech, that spurs us
To greater now and now to lesser pace.
But in the good that here by day is talked of,
Erewhile alone I was not; yet near by
No other person lifted up his voice."
From him already we departed were,
And made endeavour to o'ercome the road
As much as was permitted to our power,
When I perceived, like something that is falling,
The mountain tremble, whence a chill seized on me,
As seizes him who to his death is going.
Certes so violently shook not Delos,
Before Latona made her nest therein
To give birth to the two eyes of the heaven.
Then upon all sides there began a cry,
Such that the Master drew himself towards me,
Saying, "Fear not, while I am guiding thee."
"Gloria in excelsis Deo," all
Were saying, from what near I comprehended,
Where it was possible to hear the cry.
We paused immovable and in suspense,
Even as the shepherds who first heard that song,
Until the trembling ceased, and it was finished.
Then we resumed again our holy path,
Watching the shades that lay upon the ground,
Already turned to their accustomed plaint.
No ignorance ever with so great a strife
Had rendered me importunate to know,
If erreth not in this my memory,
As meditating then I seemed to have;
Nor out of haste to question did I dare,
Nor of myself I there could aught perceive;
So I went onward timorous and thoughtful.
Purgatorio: Canto XXI
The natural thirst, that ne'er is satisfied
Excepting with the water for whose grace
The woman of Samaria besought,
Put me in travail, and haste goaded me
Along the encumbered path behind my Leader
And I was pitying that righteous vengeance;
And lo! in the same manner as Luke writeth
That Christ appeared to two upon the way
From the sepulchral cave already risen,
A shade appeared to us, and came behind us,
Down gazing on the prostrate multitude,
Nor were we ware of it, until it spake,
Saying, "My brothers, may God give you peace!"
We turned us suddenly, and Virgilius rendered
To him the countersign thereto conforming.
Thereon began he: "In the blessed council,
Thee may the court veracious place in peace,
That me doth banish in eternal exile!"
"How," said he, and the while we went with speed,
"If ye are shades whom God deigns not on high,
Who up his stairs so far has guided you?"
And said my Teacher: "If thou note the marks
Which this one bears, and which the Angel traces
Well shalt thou see he with the good must reign.
But because she who spinneth day and night
For him had not yet drawn the distaff off,
Which Clotho lays for each one and compacts,
His soul, which is thy sister and my own,
In coming upwards could not come alone,
By reason that it sees not in our fashion.
Whence I was drawn from out the ample throat
Of Hell to be his guide, and I shall guide him
As far on as my school has power to lead.
But tell us, if thou knowest, why such a shudder
Erewhile the mountain gave, and why together
All seemed to cry, as far as its moist feet?"
In asking he so hit the very eye
Of my desire, that merely with the hope
My thirst became the less unsatisfied.
"Naught is there," he began, "that without order
May the religion of the mountain feel,
Nor aught that may be foreign to its custom.
Free is it here from every permutation;
What from itself heaven in itself receiveth
Can be of this the cause, and naught beside;
Because that neither rain, nor hail, nor snow,
Nor dew, nor hoar-frost any higher falls
Than the short, little stairway of three steps.
Dense clouds do not appear, nor rarefied,
Nor coruscation, nor the daughter of Thaumas,
That often upon earth her region shifts;
No arid vapour any farther rises
Than to the top of the three steps I spake of,
Whereon the Vicar of Peter has his feet.
Lower down perchance it trembles less or more,
But, for the wind that in the earth is hidden
I know not how, up here it never trembled.
It trembles here, whenever any soul
Feels itself pure, so that it soars, or moves
To mount aloft, and such a cry attends it.
Of purity the will alone gives proof,
Which, being wholly free to change its convent,
Takes by surprise the soul, and helps it fly.
First it wills well; but the desire permits not,
Which divine justice with the self-same will
There was to sin, upon the torment sets.
And I, who have been lying in this pain
Five hundred years and more, but just now felt
A free volition for a better seat.
Therefore thou heardst the earthquake, and the pious
Spirits along the mountain rendering praise
Unto the Lord, that soon he speed them upwards."
So said he to him; and since we enjoy
As much in drinking as the thirst is great,
I could not say how much it did me good.
And the wise Leader: "Now I see the net
That snares you here, and how ye are set free,
Why the earth quakes, and wherefore ye rejoice.
Now who thou wast be pleased that I may know;
And why so many centuries thou hast here
Been lying, let me gather from thy words."
"In days when the good Titus, with the aid
Of the supremest King, avenged the wounds
Whence issued forth the blood by Judas sold,
Under the name that most endures and honours,
Was I on earth," that spirit made reply,
"Greatly renowned, but not with faith as yet.
My vocal spirit was so sweet, that Rome
Me, a Thoulousian, drew unto herself,
Where I deserved to deck my brows with myrtle.
Statius the people name me still on earth;
I sang of Thebes, and then of great Achilles;
But on the way fell with my second burden.
The seeds unto my ardour were the sparks
Of that celestial flame which heated me,
Whereby more than a thousand have been fired;
Of the Aeneid speak I, which to me
A mother was, and was my nurse in song;
Without this weighed I not a drachma's weight.
And to have lived upon the earth what time
Virgilius lived, I would accept one sun
More than I must ere issuing from my ban."
These words towards me made Virgilius turn
With looks that in their silence said, "Be silent!"
But yet the power that wills cannot do all things;
For tears and laughter are such pursuivants
Unto the passion from which each springs forth,
In the most truthful least the will they follow.
I only smiled, as one who gives the wink;
Whereat the shade was silent, and it gazed
Into mine eyes, where most expression dwells;
And, "As thou well mayst consummate a labour
So great," it said, "why did thy face just now
Display to me the lightning of a smile?"
Now am I caught on this side and on that;
One keeps me silent, one to speak conjures me,
Wherefore I sigh, and I am understood.
"Speak," said my Master, "and be not afraid
Of speaking, but speak out, and say to him
What he demands with such solicitude."
Whence I: "Thou peradventure marvellest,
O antique spirit, at the smile I gave;
But I will have more wonder seize upon thee.
This one, who guides on high these eyes of mine,
Is that Virgilius, from whom thou didst learn
To sing aloud of men and of the Gods.
If other cause thou to my smile imputedst,
Abandon it as false, and trust it was
Those words which thou hast spoken concerning him."
Already he was stooping to embrace
My Teacher's feet; but he said to him: "Brother,
Do not; for shade thou art, and shade beholdest."
And he uprising: "Now canst thou the sum
Of love which warms me to thee comprehend,
When this our vanity I disremember,
Treating a shadow as substantial thing."
Purgatorio: Canto XXII
Already was the Angel left behind us,
The Angel who to the sixth round had turned us,
Having erased one mark from off my face;
And those who have in justice their desire
Had said to us, "Beati," in their voices,
With "sitio," and without more ended it.
And I, more light than through the other passes,
Went onward so, that without any labour
I followed upward the swift-footed spirits;
When thus Virgilius began: "The love
Kindled by virtue aye another kindles,
Provided outwardly its flame appear.
Hence from the hour that Juvenal descended
Among us into the infernal Limbo,
Who made apparent to me thy affection,
My kindliness towards thee was as great
As ever bound one to an unseen person,
So that these stairs will now seem short to me.
But tell me, and forgive me as a friend,
If too great confidence let loose the rein,
And as a friend now hold discourse with me;
How was it possible within thy breast
For avarice to find place, 'mid so much wisdom
As thou wast filled with by thy diligence?"
These words excited Statius at first
Somewhat to laughter; afterward he answered:
"Each word of thine is love's dear sign to me.
Verily oftentimes do things appear
Which give fallacious matter to our doubts,
Instead of the true causes which are hidden!
Thy question shows me thy belief to be
That I was niggard in the other life,
It may be from the circle where I was;
Therefore know thou, that avarice was removed
Too far from me; and this extravagance
Thousands of lunar periods have punished.
And were it not that I my thoughts uplifted,
When I the passage heard where thou exclaimest,
As if indignant, unto human nature,
'To what impellest thou not, O cursed hunger
Of gold, the appetite of mortal men?'
Revolving I should feel the dismal joustings.
Then I perceived the hands could spread too wide
Their wings in spending, and repented me
As well of that as of my other sins;
How many with shorn hair shall rise again
Because of ignorance, which from this sin
Cuts off repentance living and in death!
And know that the transgression which rebuts
By direct opposition any sin
Together with it here its verdure dries.
Therefore if I have been among that folk
Which mourns its avarice, to purify me,
For its opposite has this befallen me."
"Now when thou sangest the relentless weapons
Of the twofold affliction of Jocasta,"
The singer of the Songs Bucolic said,
"From that which Clio there with thee preludes,
It does not seem that yet had made thee faithful
That faith without which no good works suffice.
If this be so, what candles or what sun
Scattered thy darkness so that thou didst trim
Thy sails behind the Fisherman thereafter?"
And he to him: "Thou first directedst me
Towards Parnassus, in its grots to drink,
And first concerning God didst me enlighten.
Thou didst as he who walketh in the night,
Who bears his light behind, which helps him not,
But wary makes the persons after him,
When thou didst say: 'The age renews itself,
Justice returns, and man's primeval time,
And a new progeny descends from heaven.'
Through thee I Poet was, through thee a Christian;
But that thou better see what I design,
To colour it will I extend my hand.
Already was the world in every part
Pregnant with the true creed, disseminated
By messengers of the eternal kingdom;
And thy assertion, spoken of above,
With the new preachers was in unison;
Whence I to visit them the custom took.
Then they became so holy in my sight,
That, when Domitian persecuted them,
Not without tears of mine were their laments;
And all the while that I on earth remained,
Them I befriended, and their upright customs
Made me disparage all the other sects.
And ere I led the Greeks unto the rivers
Of Thebes, in poetry, I was baptized,
But out of fear was covertly a Christian,
For a long time professing paganism;
And this lukewarmness caused me the fourth circle
To circuit round more than four centuries.
Thou, therefore, who hast raised the covering
That hid from me whatever good I speak of,
While in ascending we have time to spare,
Tell me, in what place is our friend Terentius,
Caecilius, Plautus, Varro, if thou knowest;
Tell me if they are damned, and in what alley."
"These, Persius and myself, and others many,"
Replied my Leader, "with that Grecian are
Whom more than all the rest the Muses suckled,
In the first circle of the prison blind;
Ofttimes we of the mountain hold discourse
Which has our nurses ever with itself.
Euripides is with us, Antiphon,
Simonides, Agatho, and many other
Greeks who of old their brows with laurel decked.
There some of thine own people may be seen,
Antigone, Deiphile and Argia,
And there Ismene mournful as of old.
There she is seen who pointed out Langia;
There is Tiresias' daughter, and there Thetis,
And there Deidamia with her sisters."
Silent already were the poets both,
Attent once more in looking round about,
From the ascent and from the walls released;
And four handmaidens of the day already
Were left behind, and at the pole the fifth
Was pointing upward still its burning horn,
What time my Guide: "I think that tow'rds the edge
Our dexter shoulders it behoves us turn,
Circling the mount as we are wont to do."
Thus in that region custom was our ensign;
And we resumed our way with less suspicion
For the assenting of that worthy soul
They in advance went on, and I alone
Behind them, and I listened to their speech,
Which gave me lessons in the art of song.
But soon their sweet discourses interrupted
A tree which midway in the road we found,
With apples sweet and grateful to the smell.
And even as a fir-tree tapers upward
From bough to bough, so downwardly did that;
I think in order that no one might climb it.
On that side where our pathway was enclosed
Fell from the lofty rock a limpid water,
And spread itself abroad upon the leaves.
The Poets twain unto the tree drew near,
And from among the foliage a voice
Cried: "Of this food ye shall have scarcity."
Then said: "More thoughtful Mary was of making
The marriage feast complete and honourable,
Than of her mouth which now for you responds;
And for their drink the ancient Roman women
With water were content; and Daniel
Disparaged food, and understanding won.
The primal age was beautiful as gold;
Acorns it made with hunger savorous,
And nectar every rivulet with thirst.
Honey and locusts were the aliments
That fed the Baptist in the wilderness;
Whence he is glorious, and so magnified
As by the Evangel is revealed to you."
Purgatorio: Canto XXIII
The while among the verdant leaves mine eyes
I riveted, as he is wont to do
Who wastes his life pursuing little birds,
My more than Father said unto me: "Son,
Come now; because the time that is ordained us
More usefully should be apportioned out."
I turned my face and no less soon my steps
Unto the Sages, who were speaking so
They made the going of no cost to me;
And lo! were heard a song and a lament,
"Labia mea, Domine," in fashion
Such that delight and dolence it brought forth.
"O my sweet Father, what is this I hear?"
Began I; and he answered: "Shades that go
Perhaps the knot unloosing of their debt."
In the same way that thoughtful pilgrims do,
Who, unknown people on the road o'ertaking,
Turn themselves round to them, and do not stop,
Even thus, behind us with a swifter motion
Coming and passing onward, gazed upon us
A crowd of spirits silent and devout.
Each in his eyes was dark and cavernous,
Pallid in face, and so emaciate
That from the bones the skin did shape itself.
I do not think that so to merest rind
Could Erisichthon have been withered up
By famine, when most fear he had of it.
Thinking within myself I said: "Behold,
This is the folk who lost Jerusalem,
When Mary made a prey of her own son."
Their sockets were like rings without the gems;
Whoever in the face of men reads 'omo'
Might well in these have recognised the 'm.'
Who would believe the odour of an apple,
Begetting longing, could consume them so,
And that of water, without knowing how?
I still was wondering what so famished them,
For the occasion not yet manifest
Of their emaciation and sad squalor;
And lo! from out the hollow of his head
His eyes a shade turned on me, and looked keenly;
Then cried aloud: "What grace to me is this?"
Never should I have known him by his look;
But in his voice was evident to me
That which his aspect had suppressed within it.
This spark within me wholly re-enkindled
My recognition of his altered face,
And I recalled the features of Forese.
"Ah, do not look at this dry leprosy,"
Entreated he, "which doth my skin discolour,
Nor at default of flesh that I may have;
But tell me truth of thee, and who are those
Two souls, that yonder make for thee an escort;
Do not delay in speaking unto me."
"That face of thine, which dead I once bewept,
Gives me for weeping now no lesser grief,"
I answered him, "beholding it so changed!
But tell me, for God's sake, what thus denudes you?
Make me not speak while I am marvelling,
For ill speaks he who's full of other longings."
And he to me: "From the eternal council
Falls power into the water and the tree
Behind us left, whereby I grow so thin.
All of this people who lamenting sing,
For following beyond measure appetite
In hunger and thirst are here re-sanctified.
Desire to eat and drink enkindles in us
The scent that issues from the apple-tree,
And from the spray that sprinkles o'er the verdure;
And not a single time alone, this ground
Encompassing, is refreshed our pain,--
I say our pain, and ought to say our solace,--
For the same wish doth lead us to the tree
Which led the Christ rejoicing to say 'Eli,'
When with his veins he liberated us."
And I to him: "Forese, from that day
When for a better life thou changedst worlds,
Up to this time five years have not rolled round.
If sooner were the power exhausted in thee
Of sinning more, than thee the hour surprised
Of that good sorrow which to God reweds us,
How hast thou come up hitherward already?
I thought to find thee down there underneath,
Where time for time doth restitution make."
And he to me: "Thus speedily has led me
To drink of the sweet wormwood of these torments,
My Nella with her overflowing tears;
She with her prayers devout and with her sighs
Has drawn me from the coast where one where one awaits,
And from the other circles set me free.
So much more dear and pleasing is to God
My little widow, whom so much I loved,
As in good works she is the more alone;
For the Barbagia of Sardinia
By far more modest in its women is
Than the Barbagia I have left her in.
O brother sweet, what wilt thou have me say?
A future time is in my sight already,
To which this hour will not be very old,
When from the pulpit shall be interdicted
To the unblushing womankind of Florence
To go about displaying breast and paps.
What savages were e'er, what Saracens,
Who stood in need, to make them covered go,
Of spiritual or other discipline?
But if the shameless women were assured
Of what swift Heaven prepares for them, already
Wide open would they have their mouths to howl;
For if my foresight here deceive me not,
They shall be sad ere he has bearded cheeks
Who now is hushed to sleep with lullaby.
O brother, now no longer hide thee from me;
See that not only I, but all these people
Are gazing there, where thou dost veil the sun."
Whence I to him: "If thou bring back to mind
What thou with me hast been and I with thee,
The present memory will be grievous still.
Out of that life he turned me back who goes
In front of me, two days agone when round
The sister of him yonder showed herself,"
And to the sun I pointed. "Through the deep
Night of the truly dead has this one led me,
With this true flesh, that follows after him.
Thence his encouragements have led me up,
Ascending and still circling round the mount
That you doth straighten, whom the world made crooked.
He says that he will bear me company,
Till I shall be where Beatrice will be;
There it behoves me to remain without him.
This is Virgilius, who thus says to me,"
And him I pointed at; "the other is
That shade for whom just now shook every slope
Your realm, that from itself discharges him."
Purgatorio: Canto XXIV
Nor speech the going, nor the going that
Slackened; but talking we went bravely on,
Even as a vessel urged by a good wind.
And shadows, that appeared things doubly dead,
From out the sepulchres of their eyes betrayed
Wonder at me, aware that I was living.
And I, continuing my colloquy,
Said: "Peradventure he goes up more slowly
Than he would do, for other people's sake.
But tell me, if thou knowest, where is Piccarda;
Tell me if any one of note I see
Among this folk that gazes at me so."
"My sister, who, 'twixt beautiful and good,
I know not which was more, triumphs rejoicing
Already in her crown on high Olympus."
So said he first, and then: "'Tis not forbidden
To name each other here, so milked away
Is our resemblance by our dieting.
This," pointing with his finger, "is Buonagiunta,
Buonagiunta, of Lucca; and that face
Beyond him there, more peaked than the others,
Has held the holy Church within his arms;
From Tours was he, and purges by his fasting
Bolsena's eels and the Vernaccia wine."
He named me many others one by one;
And all contented seemed at being named,
So that for this I saw not one dark look.
I saw for hunger bite the empty air
Ubaldin dalla Pila, and Boniface,
Who with his crook had pastured many people.
I saw Messer Marchese, who had leisure
Once at Forli for drinking with less dryness,
And he was one who ne'er felt satisfied.
But as he does who scans, and then doth prize
One more than others, did I him of Lucca,
Who seemed to take most cognizance of me.
He murmured, and I know not what Gentucca
From that place heard I, where he felt the wound
Of justice, that doth macerate them so.
"O soul," I said, "that seemest so desirous
To speak with me, do so that I may hear thee,
And with thy speech appease thyself and me."
"A maid is born, and wears not yet the veil,"
Began he, "who to thee shall pleasant make
My city, howsoever men may blame it.
Thou shalt go on thy way with this prevision;
If by my murmuring thou hast been deceived,
True things hereafter will declare it to thee.
But say if him I here behold, who forth
Evoked the new-invented rhymes, beginning,
'Ladies, that have intelligence of love?'"
And I to him: "One am I, who, whenever
Love doth inspire me, note, and in that measure
Which he within me dictates, singing go."
"O brother, now I see," he said, "the knot
Which me, the Notary, and Guittone held
Short of the sweet new style that now I hear.
I do perceive full clearly how your pens
Go closely following after him who dictates,
Which with our own forsooth came not to pass;
And he who sets himself to go beyond,
No difference sees from one style to another;"
And as if satisfied, he held his peace.
Even as the birds, that winter tow'rds the Nile,
Sometimes into a phalanx form themselves,
Then fly in greater haste, and go in file;
In such wise all the people who were there,
Turning their faces, hurried on their steps,
Both by their leanness and their wishes light.
And as a man, who weary is with trotting,
Lets his companions onward go, and walks,
Until he vents the panting of his chest;
So did Forese let the holy flock
Pass by, and came with me behind it, saying,
"When will it be that I again shall see thee?"
"How long," I answered, "I may live, I know not;
Yet my return will not so speedy be,
But I shall sooner in desire arrive;
Because the place where I was set to live
From day to day of good is more depleted,
And unto dismal ruin seems ordained."
"Now go," he said, "for him most guilty of it
At a beast's tail behold I dragged along
Towards the valley where is no repentance.
Faster at every step the beast is going,
Increasing evermore until it smites him,
And leaves the body vilely mutilated.
Not long those wheels shall turn," and he uplifted
His eyes to heaven, "ere shall be clear to thee
That which my speech no farther can declare.
Now stay behind; because the time so precious
Is in this kingdom, that I lose too much
By coming onward thus abreast with thee."
As sometimes issues forth upon a gallop
A cavalier from out a troop that ride,
And seeks the honour of the first encounter,
So he with greater strides departed from us;
And on the road remained I with those two,
Who were such mighty marshals of the world.
And when before us he had gone so far
Mine eyes became to him such pursuivants
As was my understanding to his words,
Appeared to me with laden and living boughs
Another apple-tree, and not far distant,
From having but just then turned thitherward.
People I saw beneath it lift their hands,
And cry I know not what towards the leaves,
Like little children eager and deluded,
Who pray, and he they pray to doth not answer,
But, to make very keen their appetite,
Holds their desire aloft, and hides it not.
Then they departed as if undeceived;
And now we came unto the mighty tree
Which prayers and tears so manifold refuses.
"Pass farther onward without drawing near;
The tree of which Eve ate is higher up,
And out of that one has this tree been raised."
Thus said I know not who among the branches;
Whereat Virgilius, Statius, and myself
Went crowding forward on the side that rises.
"Be mindful," said he, "of the accursed ones
Formed of the cloud-rack, who inebriate
Combated Theseus with their double breasts;
And of the Jews who showed them soft in drinking,
Whence Gideon would not have them for companions
When he tow'rds Midian the hills descended."
Thus, closely pressed to one of the two borders,
On passed we, hearing sins of gluttony,
Followed forsooth by miserable gains;
Then set at large upon the lonely road,
A thousand steps and more we onward went,
In contemplation, each without a word.
"What go ye thinking thus, ye three alone?"
Said suddenly a voice, whereat I started
As terrified and timid beasts are wont.
I raised my head to see who this might be,
And never in a furnace was there seen
Metals or glass so lucent and so red
As one I saw who said: "If it may please you
To mount aloft, here it behoves you turn;
This way goes he who goeth after peace."
His aspect had bereft me of my sight,
So that I turned me back unto my Teachers,
Like one who goeth as his hearing guides him.
And as, the harbinger of early dawn,
The air of May doth move and breathe out fragrance,
Impregnate all with herbage and with flowers,
So did I feel a breeze strike in the midst
My front, and felt the moving of the plumes
That breathed around an odour of ambrosia;
And heard it said: "Blessed are they whom grace
So much illumines, that the love of taste
Excites not in their breasts too great desire,
Hungering at all times so far as is just."
Purgatorio: Canto XXV
Now was it the ascent no hindrance brooked,
Because the sun had his meridian circle
To Taurus left, and night to Scorpio;
Wherefore as doth a man who tarries not,
But goes his way, whate'er to him appear,
If of necessity the sting transfix him,
In this wise did we enter through the gap,
Taking the stairway, one before the other,
Which by its narrowness divides the climbers.
And as the little stork that lifts its wing
With a desire to fly, and does not venture
To leave the nest, and lets it downward droop,
Even such was I, with the desire of asking
Kindled and quenched, unto the motion coming
He makes who doth address himself to speak.
Not for our pace, though rapid it might be,
My father sweet forbore, but said: "Let fly
The bow of speech thou to the barb hast drawn."
With confidence I opened then my mouth,
And I began: "How can one meagre grow
There where the need of nutriment applies not?"
"If thou wouldst call to mind how Meleager
Was wasted by the wasting of a brand,
This would not," said he, "be to thee so sour;
And wouldst thou think how at each tremulous motion
Trembles within a mirror your own image;
That which seems hard would mellow seem to thee.
But that thou mayst content thee in thy wish
Lo Statius here; and him I call and pray
He now will be the healer of thy wounds."
"If I unfold to him the eternal vengeance,"
Responded Statius, "where thou present art,
Be my excuse that I can naught deny thee."
Then he began: "Son, if these words of mine
Thy mind doth contemplate and doth receive,
They'll be thy light unto the How thou sayest.
The perfect blood, which never is drunk up
Into the thirsty veins, and which remaineth
Like food that from the table thou removest,
Takes in the heart for all the human members
Virtue informative, as being that
Which to be changed to them goes through the veins
Again digest, descends it where 'tis better
Silent to be than say; and then drops thence
Upon another's blood in natural vase.
There one together with the other mingles,
One to be passive meant, the other active
By reason of the perfect place it springs from;
And being conjoined, begins to operate,
Coagulating first, then vivifying
What for its matter it had made consistent.
The active virtue, being made a soul
As of a plant, (in so far different,
This on the way is, that arrived already,)
Then works so much, that now it moves and feels
Like a sea-fungus, and then undertakes
To organize the powers whose seed it is.
Now, Son, dilates and now distends itself
The virtue from the generator's heart,
Where nature is intent on all the members.
But how from animal it man becomes
Thou dost not see as yet; this is a point
Which made a wiser man than thou once err
So far, that in his doctrine separate
He made the soul from possible intellect,
For he no organ saw by this assumed.
Open thy breast unto the truth that's coming,
And know that, just as soon as in the foetus
The articulation of the brain is perfect,
The primal Motor turns to it well pleased
At so great art of nature, and inspires
A spirit new with virtue all replete,
Which what it finds there active doth attract
Into its substance, and becomes one soul,
Which lives, and feels, and on itself revolves.
And that thou less may wonder at my word,
Behold the sun's heat, which becometh wine,
Joined to the juice that from the vine distils.
Whenever Lachesis has no more thread,
It separates from the flesh, and virtually
Bears with itself the human and divine;
The other faculties are voiceless all;
The memory, the intelligence, and the will
In action far more vigorous than before.
Without a pause it falleth of itself
In marvellous way on one shore or the other;
There of its roads it first is cognizant.
Soon as the place there circumscribeth it,
The virtue informative rays round about,
As, and as much as, in the living members.
And even as the air, when full of rain,
By alien rays that are therein reflected,
With divers colours shows itself adorned,
So there the neighbouring air doth shape itself
Into that form which doth impress upon it
Virtually the soul that has stood still.
And then in manner of the little flame,
Which followeth the fire where'er it shifts,
After the spirit followeth its new form.
Since afterwards it takes from this its semblance,
It is called shade; and thence it organizes
Thereafter every sense, even to the sight.
Thence is it that we speak, and thence we laugh;
Thence is it that we form the tears and sighs,
That on the mountain thou mayhap hast heard.
According as impress us our desires
And other affections, so the shade is shaped,
And this is cause of what thou wonderest at."
And now unto the last of all the circles
Had we arrived, and to the right hand turned,
And were attentive to another care.
There the embankment shoots forth flames of fire,
And upward doth the cornice breathe a blast
That drives them back, and from itself sequesters.
Hence we must needs go on the open side,
And one by one; and I did fear the fire
On this side, and on that the falling down.
My Leader said: "Along this place one ought
To keep upon the eyes a tightened rein,
Seeing that one so easily might err."
"Summae Deus clementiae," in the bosom
Of the great burning chanted then I heard,
Which made me no less eager to turn round;
And spirits saw I walking through the flame;
Wherefore I looked, to my own steps and theirs
Apportioning my sight from time to time.
After the close which to that hymn is made,
Aloud they shouted, "Virum non cognosco;"
Then recommenced the hymn with voices low.
This also ended, cried they: "To the wood
Diana ran, and drove forth Helice
Therefrom, who had of Venus felt the poison."
Then to their song returned they; then the wives
They shouted, and the husbands who were chaste.
As virtue and the marriage vow imposes.
And I believe that them this mode suffices,
For all the time the fire is burning them;
With such care is it needful, and such food,
That the last wound of all should be closed up.
Purgatorio: Canto XXVI
While on the brink thus one before the other
We went upon our way, oft the good Master
Said: "Take thou heed! suffice it that I warn thee."
On the right shoulder smote me now the sun,
That, raying out, already the whole west
Changed from its azure aspect into white.
And with my shadow did I make the flame
Appear more red; and even to such a sign
Shades saw I many, as they went, give heed.
This was the cause that gave them a beginning
To speak of me; and to themselves began they
To say: "That seems not a factitious body!"
Then towards me, as far as they could come,
Came certain of them, always with regard
Not to step forth where they would not be burned.
"O thou who goest, not from being slower
But reverent perhaps, behind the others,
Answer me, who in thirst and fire am burning.
Nor to me only is thine answer needful;
For all of these have greater thirst for it
Than for cold water Ethiop or Indian.
Tell us how is it that thou makest thyself
A wall unto the sun, as if thou hadst not
Entered as yet into the net of death."
Thus one of them addressed me, and I straight
Should have revealed myself, were I not bent
On other novelty that then appeared.
For through the middle of the burning road
There came a people face to face with these,
Which held me in suspense with gazing at them.
There see I hastening upon either side
Each of the shades, and kissing one another
Without a pause, content with brief salute.
Thus in the middle of their brown battalions
Muzzle to muzzle one ant meets another
Perchance to spy their journey or their fortune.
No sooner is the friendly greeting ended,
Or ever the first footstep passes onward,
Each one endeavours to outcry the other;
The new-come people: "Sodom and Gomorrah!"
The rest: "Into the cow Pasiphae enters,
So that the bull unto her lust may run!"
Then as the cranes, that to Riphaean mountains
Might fly in part, and part towards the sands,
These of the frost, those of the sun avoidant,
One folk is going, and the other coming,
And weeping they return to their first songs,
And to the cry that most befitteth them;
And close to me approached, even as before,
The very same who had entreated me,
Attent to listen in their countenance.
I, who their inclination twice had seen,
Began: "O souls secure in the possession,
Whene'er it may be, of a state of peace,
Neither unripe nor ripened have remained
My members upon earth, but here are with me
With their own blood and their articulations.
I go up here to be no longer blind;
A Lady is above, who wins this grace,
Whereby the mortal through your world I bring.
But as your greatest longing satisfied
May soon become, so that the Heaven may house you
Which full of love is, and most amply spreads,
Tell me, that I again in books may write it,
Who are you, and what is that multitude
Which goes upon its way behind your backs?"
Not otherwise with wonder is bewildered
The mountaineer, and staring round is dumb,
When rough and rustic to the town he goes,
Than every shade became in its appearance;
But when they of their stupor were disburdened,
Which in high hearts is quickly quieted,
"Blessed be thou, who of our border-lands,"
He recommenced who first had questioned us,
"Experience freightest for a better life.
The folk that comes not with us have offended
In that for which once Caesar, triumphing,
Heard himself called in contumely, 'Queen.'
Therefore they separate, exclaiming, 'Sodom!'
Themselves reproving, even as thou hast heard,
And add unto their burning by their shame.
Our own transgression was hermaphrodite;
But because we observed not human law,
Following like unto beasts our appetite,
In our opprobrium by us is read,
When we part company, the name of her
Who bestialized herself in bestial wood.
Now knowest thou our acts, and what our crime was;
Wouldst thou perchance by name know who we are,
There is not time to tell, nor could I do it.
Thy wish to know me shall in sooth be granted;
I'm Guido Guinicelli, and now purge me,
Having repented ere the hour extreme."
The same that in the sadness of Lycurgus
Two sons became, their mother re-beholding,
Such I became, but rise not to such height,
The moment I heard name himself the father
Of me and of my betters, who had ever
Practised the sweet and gracious rhymes of love;
And without speech and hearing thoughtfully
For a long time I went, beholding him,
Nor for the fire did I approach him nearer.
When I was fed with looking, utterly
Myself I offered ready for his service,
With affirmation that compels belief.
And he to me: "Thou leavest footprints such
In me, from what I hear, and so distinct,
Lethe cannot efface them, nor make dim.
But if thy words just now the truth have sworn,
Tell me what is the cause why thou displayest
In word and look that dear thou holdest me?"
And I to him: "Those dulcet lays of yours
Which, long as shall endure our modern fashion,
Shall make for ever dear their very ink!"
"O brother," said he, "he whom I point out,"
And here he pointed at a spirit in front,
"Was of the mother tongue a better smith.
Verses of love and proses of romance,
He mastered all; and let the idiots talk,
Who think the Lemosin surpasses him.
To clamour more than truth they turn their faces,
And in this way establish their opinion,
Ere art or reason has by them been heard.
Thus many ancients with Guittone did,
From cry to cry still giving him applause,
Until the truth has conquered with most persons.
Now, if thou hast such ample privilege
'Tis granted thee to go unto the cloister
Wherein is Christ the abbot of the college,
To him repeat for me a Paternoster,
So far as needful to us of this world,
Where power of sinning is no longer ours."
Then, to give place perchance to one behind,
Whom he had near, he vanished in the fire
As fish in water going to the bottom.
I moved a little tow'rds him pointed out,
And said that to his name my own desire
An honourable place was making ready.
He of his own free will began to say:
'Tan m' abellis vostre cortes deman,
Que jeu nom' puesc ni vueill a vos cobrire;
Jeu sui Arnaut, que plor e vai chantan;
Consiros vei la passada folor,
E vei jauzen lo jorn qu' esper denan.
Ara vus prec per aquella valor,
Que vus condus al som de la scalina,
Sovenga vus a temprar ma dolor.'*
Then hid him in the fire that purifies them.
* So pleases me your courteous demand,
I cannot and I will not hide me from you.
I am Arnaut, who weep and singing go;
Contrite I see the folly of the past,
And joyous see the hoped-for day before me.
Therefore do I implore you, by that power
Which guides you to the summit of the stairs,
Be mindful to assuage my suffering!
Purgatorio: Canto XXVII
As when he vibrates forth his earliest rays,
In regions where his Maker shed his blood,
(The Ebro falling under lofty Libra,
And waters in the Ganges burnt with noon,)
So stood the Sun; hence was the day departing,
When the glad Angel of God appeared to us.
Outside the flame he stood upon the verge,
And chanted forth, "Beati mundo corde,"
In voice by far more living than our own.
Then: "No one farther goes, souls sanctified,
If first the fire bite not; within it enter,
And be not deaf unto the song beyond."
When we were close beside him thus he said;
Wherefore e'en such became I, when I heard him,
As he is who is put into the grave.
Upon my clasped hands I straightened me,
Scanning the fire, and vividly recalling
The human bodies I had once seen burned.
Towards me turned themselves my good Conductors,
And unto me Virgilius said: "My son,
Here may indeed be torment, but not death.
Remember thee, remember! and if I
On Geryon have safely guided thee,
What shall I do now I am nearer God?
Believe for certain, shouldst thou stand a full
Millennium in the bosom of this flame,
It could not make thee bald a single hair.
And if perchance thou think that I deceive thee,
Draw near to it, and put it to the proof
With thine own hands upon thy garment's hem.
Now lay aside, now lay aside all fear,
Turn hitherward, and onward come securely;"
And I still motionless, and 'gainst my conscience!
Seeing me stand still motionless and stubborn,
Somewhat disturbed he said: "Now look thou, Son,
'Twixt Beatrice and thee there is this wall."
As at the name of Thisbe oped his lids
The dying Pyramus, and gazed upon her,
What time the mulberry became vermilion,
Even thus, my obduracy being softened,
I turned to my wise Guide, hearing the name
That in my memory evermore is welling.
Whereat he wagged his head, and said: "How now?
Shall we stay on this side?" then smiled as one
Does at a child who's vanquished by an apple.
Then into the fire in front of me he entered,
Beseeching Statius to come after me,
Who a long way before divided us.
When I was in it, into molten glass
I would have cast me to refresh myself,
So without measure was the burning there!
And my sweet Father, to encourage me,
Discoursing still of Beatrice went on,
Saying: "Her eyes I seem to see already!"
A voice, that on the other side was singing,
Directed us, and we, attent alone
On that, came forth where the ascent began.
"Venite, benedicti Patris mei,"
Sounded within a splendour, which was there
Such it o'ercame me, and I could not look.
"The sun departs," it added, "and night cometh;
Tarry ye not, but onward urge your steps,
So long as yet the west becomes not dark."
Straight forward through the rock the path ascended
In such a way that I cut off the rays
Before me of the sun, that now was low.
And of few stairs we yet had made assay,
Ere by the vanished shadow the sun's setting
Behind us we perceived, I and my Sages.
And ere in all its parts immeasurable
The horizon of one aspect had become,
And Night her boundless dispensation held,
Each of us of a stair had made his bed;
Because the nature of the mount took from us
The power of climbing, more than the delight.
Even as in ruminating passive grow
The goats, who have been swift and venturesome
Upon the mountain-tops ere they were fed,
Hushed in the shadow, while the sun is hot,
Watched by the herdsman, who upon his staff
Is leaning, and in leaning tendeth them;
And as the shepherd, lodging out of doors,
Passes the night beside his quiet flock,
Watching that no wild beast may scatter it,
Such at that hour were we, all three of us,
I like the goat, and like the herdsmen they,
Begirt on this side and on that by rocks.
Little could there be seen of things without;
But through that little I beheld the stars
More luminous and larger than their wont.
Thus ruminating, and beholding these,
Sleep seized upon me,--sleep, that oftentimes
Before a deed is done has tidings of it.
It was the hour, I think, when from the East
First on the mountain Citherea beamed,
Who with the fire of love seems always burning;
Youthful and beautiful in dreams methought
I saw a lady walking in a meadow,
Gathering flowers; and singing she was saying:
"Know whosoever may my name demand
That I am Leah, and go moving round
My beauteous hands to make myself a garland.
To please me at the mirror, here I deck me,
But never does my sister Rachel leave
Her looking-glass, and sitteth all day long.
To see her beauteous eyes as eager is she,
As I am to adorn me with my hands;
Her, seeing, and me, doing satisfies."
And now before the antelucan splendours
That unto pilgrims the more grateful rise,
As, home-returning, less remote they lodge,
The darkness fled away on every side,
And slumber with it; whereupon I rose,
Seeing already the great Masters risen.
"That apple sweet, which through so many branches
The care of mortals goeth in pursuit of,
To-day shall put in peace thy hungerings."
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